What does it mean when meat packaging uses the word “natural”? Not much.
According to the USDA, the word “natural” means only that a product was “minimally processed” and “contains no artificial ingredients.” It doesn’t indicate anything about farming practices or the animals’ welfare. It doesn’t mean, for example, that the animal wasn’t given growth hormones or raised with space to move around.
A recent BuzzFeed investigation reported that 11 out of 13 major food companies would not share information about where their meat comes from. Concerns over the negative health consequences of eating meat raised with antibiotics and hormones have been brought up by a number of individuals and organizations, including the World Health Organization.
This post contains a list of companies that raise their animals without antibiotics or hormones and can provide more specific information about the welfare of their animals.
Whole Foods’ in-house brand is stamped on everything from paper towels to bacon. When it comes to the meat products, the company lists animal welfare standards on its website, including “ensuring that animals have enough space to perform their normal behavior” and prohibiting confinement or inhibiting freedom of movement.
Applegate’s offerings include deli meats, hot dogs, burgers, bacon, sausage, chicken strips, and corn dogs. Their products are either Certified Humane or meet Global Animal Partnership standards, a program meant to encourage higher welfare practices and systems that benefit farmers, consumers, retailers, and animals. Read more about it on their website.
The company says it never uses antibiotics or hormones and that it allows its “animals to grow at their natural pace in a comfortable, reduced-stress environment” that includes “spacious barns with plenty of room to run around.” Coleman sells its poultry, pork, and prepared foods at retailers like Whole Foods, Costco, and Shaw’s.
Fra’Mani’s Salame Calabrese, a spicy, dry salame inspired by Southern Italy’s Calabria region, took home a 2014 Good Food Award. The company says it sources its meat, mostly pork, “from family farmers committed to the well-being of their animals and their land.” Read more about their quality standards and nationwide retailers on their website.
In addition to meeting the requirements of Kashrut, Grow and Behold also makes animal welfare a priority, saying that its livestock “are free to behave as cows (or chickens or sheep) are wont to behave.” The company sells an array of products, including chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, fish and cheese. Depending on where you live, products can be either picked up or delivered.
7. KOL Foods
KOL Food’s line of beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, duck, salmon, deli meat, and hot dogs are all certified Glatt Kosher. According to the company, “each animal is raised [in a] traditional, environmentally-friendly way, in open fields.” You can read more about their humane practices on their website and find a local buying club if you’re in or near a major U.S. city.
8. La Quercia*
La Quercia offers a range of cured pork products, in stores and through distributors all over the country and online. All of their pork comes from farms the owners visit themselves, according to the company. *(Note: While La Quercia says they do not use pigs treated with non-therapeutic antibiotics, their farmers “can treat illnesses.”)
Nature’s Rancher sells poultry, hot dogs, burgers, pork products, bison, and quail at Whole Foods nationwide. The company explains their animal welfare standards on their website, including that they participate in the GAP program and provide their pigs with “ample space to exercise, lie, and move freely without obstruction.”
10. Niman Ranch
Niman Ranch offers beef, pork, lamb, and prepared foods, available online and in stores across the country. The company says its livestock are “raised outdoors or in deeply bedded pens” and “are able to express their natural behaviors.” Read more about their animal raising practices on their website.
11. Organic Prairie
13. Smart Chicken
Available in retailers in 48 states and online, the brand says its livestock are raised without hormones or antibiotics by Nebraska company MBA Poultry. Read about their quality of living standards, including closely monitoring temperature and moisture, and humane slaughter methods online.
14. Wellshire Farms
Wellshire Farms offers a variety of beef, pork, and poultry products as well as the condiments to go with them. The company says that all farms that raise its animals “are audited by independent third party agencies to guarantee animal compassion and proper raising practices.” Products are available nationwide exclusively at Whole Foods.
Located in Bluffton, Georgia, White Oak Pastures sells grass-fed beef and lamb and free-range poultry. You can read more about their animal welfare standards, environmental measures, and local food commitment on their website. Their products are available at all Publix supermarkets (located in Southeastern states) and at Whole Foods Markets nationwide.
16. 5 Knives
5 Knives says they carefully source the Berkshire-Chester White pigs they use in their sausage, bacon, and ham. Their pigs are “Raised Right in Vermont,” according to the company, and you can read all about what that means on their website. 5 Knives products are available all over Vermont, and in a growing list of New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts retailers, as well as online.
Offering an assortment of vegetables, beef, pork, and shelf-stable goods like applesauce, Hudson Valley Harvest sells its products in stores along New York’s I-87. Read about their animal welfare standards, explained for each species, on their website. (*Note: Hudson Valley Harvest says they never use antibiotics as growth enhancers but will administer medicine to sick animals.)
Made in the far off lands of Brooklyn, New York, this hipster jerky comes from 100% grass-fed beef raised on pasture and non-confined. Available for purchase online and in Brooklyn.
19. Murray’s Chicken
Murray’s Chickens are raised in the Pennsylvania countryside and available throughout most of the Northeast. The company is Certified Humane, Non-GMO Project Verified, and consumers can look up the individual farm their chickens came from using a number on the packaging. Products are available up and down the East coast, and stores can be located on their website.
20. Nature’s Place
As Hannaford supermarkets’ in-house meat brand, Nature’s Place offers customers all-natural beef, poultry, and pork. In addition to certifying that the meat is antibiotic and hormone-free, the grocer says it is “equally committed to working with farms that provide the healthiest environments for their animals and have sound animal-friendly methods of production.” Read more about their standards on their website.
Not only does Sugar Mountain Farm sell pig products, customers can also buy live pigs to raise themselves. Located in Vermont, the farm says it also keeps chickens, ducks, dogs, and geese on hand to achieve sustainability through co-grazing and natural pest control. Products are available in Vermont.
22. Sweet Stem Farm
A small family farm in Pennsylvania’s Dutch Country, Sweet Stem Farm raises pork, beef, and lamb. Check out their website to learn more about what they say is an “unwavering commitment to the humane treatment” of their animals, find a local retailer or restaurant (in Pennsylvania and D.C.), and look at pictures.
Florida Fresh Meat Company offers beef, pork, lamb, goat, chicken, duck and — wait for it — gator meat throughout the state. The company’s website says they raise “healthy, docile animals” that “feast on a salad bar of pesticide-free ‘gourmet’ forage.” Learn more here and find a retailer near you.
24. Publix GreenWise
Publix’s GreenWise brand offers chicken and beef raised without antibiotics or hormones. The chain “source verifies” all of its beef, meaning that it keeps track of the cattle to monitor birth, feeding, handling, and living conditions. And the company says their chickens are “raised with care in clean flock houses with plenty of fresh air, space, and light.”
Simple Truth Organic is Kroger’s in-house organic brand for beef. It’s certified organic by the USDA, so it meets federal animal health and welfare standards, including access to outdoors, and doesn’t use antibiotics or hormones. Find a Kroger near you.
26. McDowell Farms
A family farm in Southern Ohio, McDowell has achieved a Step 3 rating with Global Animal Partnership. The farm says its pigs are “never housed in crates” and have “enhanced outdoor access.” Their products can be bought in Whole Foods stores in Ohio and Kentucky.
Working with a network of “family farms” that have been “certified with the industries highest standards for animal welfare,” Homestead says its hams, chops, sausages, offal et al., come from pigs raised in “low-stress environment[s].” The company also has an organic line. You can read more about their animal welfare and sustainable farming practices here, order online here, or find them in a Whole Foods on the West coast.
Becker Lane Organic says it wants its pigs “to engage in their instinctive behaviors such as rooting, wallowing, foraging, and nesting.” Read more about their practices on their website and look for their products in Whole Foods in California. (Also sold at the Lincoln Park farmers market in Chicago and even in a few locations in Japan.)
29. Callicrate Beef
Raised by rancher Mike Callicrate (a vocal advocate against industrial farming in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation), Callicrate Beef is sold through Ranch Foods Direct, which also supplies the Colorado Springs and Denver areas with beef, poultry, pork, goat, and rabbit. Callicrate says they employ “humane treatment of our animals.” Online shopping is also available.
Country Natural Beef is a cooperative of Western ranchers that say they are committed to healthy animals, healthy land, and healthy people. Read about their animal welfare practices, including everything from breeding to slaughter, and find a retailer or restaurant serving their products near you.
Sold in Western states and Texas, Diestel Turkey Ranch products include whole turkeys and deli meats. The farm has earned a 5+ on the Global Animal Partnership 5-step rating system for animal welfare standards and is the first turkey producer to do so in the program’s history.
32. Fatted Calf
Fatted Calf says it “sources the best pigs and products” because they “care about the quality of life our animals receive.” All products are antibiotic and hormone-free.
33. Llano Seco Ranch
Selling a variety of pork and beef products in California, Oregon, and Nevada stores, Llano Seco Ranch was incorporated in 1861 and calls itself “a reminder of a lost era when Californian, American, Indigenous, Mexican, and Spanish histories intersected.” Though they are “leaving organic certification due in large part to the cost of organic feed,” the Rancho is GAP certified to help ensure customers of animal welfare standards.
34. Mary’s Chickens, Turkeys, and Ducks
Panorama’s meat is raised by a cooperative of ranchers in California, Oregon, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, South Dakota, New Mexico, Nebraska, and Colorado and its sold in California and Texas. The company says their cattle “enjoy room to roam, and graze on grass and forages at their leisure, not according to a schedule.” Read more about their practices on their website.
36. Pozzi Ranch
Pozzi Ranch raises lambs on open pastures in Northern California. Consumers can buy Pozzi’s lamb at Whole Foods in Northern California or, for those looking to buy large quantities, directly from Pozzi. More information about their practices and offerings is available on their website.